Author Topic: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts  (Read 44150 times)

Offline KatieHal

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #40 on: November 08, 2011, 08:17:19 PM »
Thanks everyone for your feedback so far. We do indeed listen to it and take it into consideration--something that we have shown throughout the development of this game. A lot of things have been added to episodes based on feedback, or adjusted and changed or even taken out for the same reasons. It really is very helpful, and yes, we have the advantage of learning some of our lessons in a freeware game as opposed to a commercial one.

Things like the feedback on puzzles like the box and the fight in particular are helpful, especially when they're specific, because these were our first tries at things like this (mini-game, boss fight). So, Damar, and everyone else who experienced frustration with these, thank you for your feedback, and thank you for making it constructive and specific so that we can take into account not only for Episode 5 but for games like Cognition as well.

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #41 on: November 08, 2011, 10:47:54 PM »
Thanks everyone for your feedback so far. We do indeed listen to it and take it into consideration--something that we have shown throughout the development of this game. A lot of things have been added to episodes based on feedback, or adjusted and changed or even taken out for the same reasons. It really is very helpful, and yes, we have the advantage of learning some of our lessons in a freeware game as opposed to a commercial one.

Things like the feedback on puzzles like the box and the fight in particular are helpful, especially when they're specific, because these were our first tries at things like this (mini-game, boss fight). So, Damar, and everyone else who experienced frustration with these, thank you for your feedback, and thank you for making it constructive and specific so that we can take into account not only for Episode 5 but for games like Cognition as well.

POS has definitely made great strides... don't get me wrong.  A lot of changes that have been made have been based on the feedback of the players, just like you said, and these changes are good.  However, POS shouldn't wait to hear feedback from end-users once the game has launched to take feedback into consideration.  When you launch an episode, you are letting the genie out of the bottle, so to speak.  And that's where my feedback is addressed.  Surely your beta testers brought up the very things that we, the end users, are discussing now.  After all, that is what lead to the implementation of the "Easy" setting, which was to address the problems that must have been brought up by the beta testers.

Obviously I'm not privy to the internal development of the game, so what I am about to suggest is probably going to be grossly off-mark... but I have seen this same scenario play out before from my days at Westwood Studios.  Game designers tend to get attached to their designs and ideas.  Different designs and ideas have different degrees of attachment and it generally boils down to how quickly the designer in question came up with the design or idea.  If it was a quickly conceived design or idea, the designer tends to accept feedback and critique willingly.  However, the more time the designer spends developing a design or idea, the more attached the designer becomes with it.  Much like a parent and their child, a designer nurtures a design or idea, molding it over time until it reaches maturity.  And just like a parent, a designer can become very protective of their design or idea, going to bat to defend it and protect it from divisive influences.  I would imagine with the box puzzle, it was the culmination of a great deal of work and the person or people who designed that puzzle felt very much attached to it.. it was their child after all.  Any feedback that the beta testers may have given regarding this puzzle would have fallen on deaf ears when said feedback reached the person or people who designed the box puzzle.  This person or people would feel that the beta testers weren't quite understanding the pretext of the puzzle and how it works in the grand scheme of things.  But, since a game, be it commercial or otherwise, is a group effort, the more people that give the same feedback, the harder it becomes to defend the puzzle.  This probably is what lead to the inclusion of the easy mode, which toned down some of the added mechanics of the puzzle in an attempt to appease the growing majority.  When the easy mode made its way down the pipe to the beta testers to test, they were already well aware of the puzzle and how to solve it, and probably checked off on the implementation because they did indeed get through the puzzle in a much easier fashion.  The beta testers appeased because their feedback was taken seriously, they continue about their work... and the person or people who designed the box puzzle are happy because they have quelled the criticism leveled against their work. 

However, the key here is that the implementation of the easy mode didn't address the feedback from the beta testers, which probably raised each and every point that the end-users are now raising.  The beta testers probably didn't catch this because they had already been exposed to the puzzle as it was originally intended and were able to breeze through the easy mode without issue.  I myself just went through that puzzle sequence again, choosing the easy mode option and was able to complete the puzzle in relatively short order, having already been exposed to the normal mode and knowing exactly what to do.  The added mechanics were no longer an issue because I already knew how to compensate for their presence, and by toning them down, the added mechanics were easier to compensate for. 

Having been able to complete the box puzzle in a markedly easier fashion, the beta testers were probably more than happy to sign off on it, because after all, if the puzzle is indeed easier now than it was before, then surely it must be fixed and all is well.  The base feedback, which probably addressed the added mechanics, UI design, and frustration factor were not addressed at any point.  The illusion of addressing the base feedback was presented and accepted.  This is no one's fault per se, and I certainly don't mean to call attention to the designers on this one, as what I have described is pretty much the creative process and is perfectly normal. 

However, that being said, the problem is getting too attached to one's own ideas.  Sometimes this is a good thing... as there are many instances where following one's gut is a good thing.  I myself made the critique that the hedge maze was ambiguous and difficult to navigate due to the position of the camera way back when (gosh, has it really been more than a year since I played through the internal dev build?!?!?).  I suggested adjusting the position of the camera to give players a better view of Graham would help make traveling through the hedge maze a bit easier.  That was my original critique and you know what?  I was wrong.  The designers explained their rationale behind the camera placement and it works.  They followed their gut on that one and it works rather well, especially given the context of the puzzles in the maze (which weren't implemented in the build I got a chance to look at).  But just as the designers followed their gut with the hedge maze, they followed their gut when it came to the box puzzle.  They made token changes with the easy mode, but didn't really address the core problem with the puzzle, which is the added mechanics, poor UI design, narrator triggers, and frustration factor.  The puzzle would have worked quite well without having the 3 strike rule implemented on the 4th piece of a glyph.  The puzzle would have worked quite well without having the wheels fade in and out at random intervals, but maintained the rotating element.  Heck, the puzzle would have worked quite well if the narrator triggers had been disabled for the area around the wheels.  The omission of one or more of these elements would have had the dual effect of addressing a specific issue AND addressing the frustration factor. 

Now like I said, I'm probably grossly off-mark here.. and I certainly don't mean to call anyone out or anything.  I simply want to call attention to the need of taking beta tester feedback seriously.  If you make a car that happens to be uncomfortable to sit in, you don't wait to fix it until people buy the car and complain that the car is uncomfortable to sit in.  You don't do this because you have a focus group sit in the car prior to release and they tell you it's not comfortable to sit in and you address the problem prior to release.  As I said, the genie is out of the bottle now when it comes to the puzzles that are being discussed.  All that can be done now is either ignore the feedback and leave the puzzles as is... or fix them via a post-release patch or bundle it into the next episode release.  Either solution would be acceptable... but neither solution would have been needed if the beta tester feedback had been addressed wholeheartedly rather than piecemeal.  To continue the car analogy, you have released a car that is great to drive and has great fuel economy... but it isn't very comfortable to sit in.  The question is... what can be done for the next car on the design table?  Will that car also be uncomfortable to sit in?  Or will the seats be redesigned so as to be a bit more comfortable? 

Sorry for the wall-o-text.   8)
 
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Offline Lambonius

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #42 on: November 08, 2011, 11:37:43 PM »
All this coddling is making me ill.

A bad design decision is a bad design decision.  You know whose fault it is?  The designers.  Put the blame where it belongs, and don't be shy about it.  We're all adults.  I'm sure they can take the heat.

That said, one bad puzzle isn't really the end-all be-all of a game, now is it?
« Last Edit: November 08, 2011, 11:40:43 PM by Lambonius »

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #43 on: November 08, 2011, 11:47:24 PM »
I will shine a light on the two closing areas of Episode 4, since they were pretty much my babies.

I'm normally not a conventional guy by any shape or form. I like to experiment and I like to try different things that break the norm. If there's one thing that I've always considered adventure games are bad at is at creating tension. In every other genre there is a difficulty engraved to these special sections of games that you don't expect to breeze through. They require coordination and learned skills. If you defeat a boss in a game in one shot, it's considered "lame" and people expect certain difficulty: See and learn their patters, as you die every time, until you know exactly how they move, then defeat them.

Again, adventure games are bad at creating tension. The only such game where I've experienced tension was in the chase sequence of Phantasmagoria, and wanted to recreate that, we built the tower sequence in Episode 3. Now, with Episode 4, I wanted to try different things. I was very aware that this may very have very well not sit right with adventure game purists, but I hoped, and I'm glad, that some people saw it for what it was, two of the most challenging sequences in the whole series, placed accordingly at the end of the penultimate episode. Some people have expressed experiencing that delightful tension and that was exactly my goal with it.

Were they perfect? Probably not. We did want to remove the narrations from the Pandora's Box puzzle and it was a mistake not having done it. Honestly that's something that we were to change and it fell through the seams, I see now how I should have prioritized it more. As far as the other one, removing the 3rd hit and break sign, it originally used to be that if you matched wrong signs, on the 3rd miss they'd break. I decided to tone it down to only being the last piece, but I wanted that to remain cause otherwise it wasn't a puzzle anymore, where you had to watch what piece matched, it became just a "hit the 12 pieces until the final one matches", which removed the "puzzle" aspect of it. As for the fading in and out, this was a tweak that we talked about implementing but at the end didn't do, again, because we took the time to do an easy option instead.

To me, this was the opening of Pandora's Box --an ancient secret of 1000 years. It needed to be hard, and unforgiving. Was I frustrated when I played it? Yes, but I wanted that feeling of frustration to make the player feel exactly what Valanice was feeling.

That's my take on it. I do appreciate the feedback cause I do read this and I do take it to heart. I tweaked the puzzle as much as I could thinking of all the infuriated players :) But yes, there is an easy option that will allow you to breeze through the puzzle :)
« Last Edit: November 08, 2011, 11:49:30 PM by Cez »


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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #44 on: November 08, 2011, 11:57:58 PM »

Moving on to the more frustrating items, which was the puzzle design.  The first thing that bothered me was getting the horn.  Mainly, Graham goes around asking everybody for everything, guilting them into it by saying it will help his children.  But to get the horn, he doesn't even bring that up to Beast, and instead conspires to steal the horn in an elaborate plot.  I'm all for a elaborate plot but it all seemed so unnecessary because Beast was reasonable at that point.  Now, if you had shifted his transformation back into a beast a bit earlier, then that would explain why he's being unreasonable and Graham needs to resort to stealth and deception.


There were other things that didn't sit quite right with me.  I felt the title of the episode was over long and didn't seem to reference anything in particular (but ultimately that doesn't matter.  It's just a title.)


Picking those two things. One, you can talk to the Prince after you figure out there's a horn in that painting.

Two, the title refers to Pandora's Box.
Spoiler (mouse over to reveal):
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 03:22:52 AM by Cez »


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Offline Lambonius

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #45 on: November 09, 2011, 12:01:00 AM »
I will shine a light on the two closing areas of Episode 4, since they were pretty much my babies.

I'm normally not a conventional guy by any shape or form. I like to experiment and I like to try different things that break the norm. If there's one thing that I've always considered adventure games are bad at is at creating tension. In every other genre there is a difficulty engraved to these special sections of games that you don't expect to breeze through. They require coordination and learned skills. If you defeat a boss in a game in one shot, it's considered "lame" and people expect certain difficulty: See and learn their patters, as you die every time, until you know exactly how they move, then defeat them.

Again, adventure games are bad at creating tension. The only such game where I've experienced tension was in the chase sequence of Phantasmagoria, and wanted to recreate that, we built the tower sequence in Episode 3. Now, with Episode 4, I wanted to try different things. I was very aware that this may very have very well not sit right with adventure game purists, but I hoped, and I'm glad, that some people saw it for what it was, two of the most challenging sequences in the whole series, placed accordingly at the end of the penultimate episode. Some people have expressed experiencing that delightful tension and that was exactly my goal with it.

Were they perfect? Probably not. We did want to remove the narrations from the Pandora's Box puzzle and it was a mistake not having done it. Honestly that's something that we were to change and it fell through the seams, I see now how I should have prioritized it more. As far as the other one, removing the 3rd hit and break sign, it originally used to be that if you matched wrong signs, on the 3rd miss they'd break. I decided to tone it down to only being the last piece, but I wanted that to remain cause otherwise it wasn't a puzzle anymore, where you had to watch what piece matched, it became just a "hit the 12 pieces until the final one matches", which removed the "puzzle" aspect of it. As for the fading in and out, this was a tweak that we talked about implementing but at the end didn't do, again, because we took the time to do an easy option instead.

To me, this was the opening of Pandora's Box --an ancient secret of 1000 years. It needed to be hard, and unforgiving. Was I frustrated when I played it? Yes, but I wanted that feeling of frustration to make the player feel exactly what Valanice was feeling.

That's my take on it. I do appreciate the feedback cause I do read this and I do take it to heart. I tweaked the puzzle as much as I could thinking of all the infuriated players :) But yes, there is an easy option that will allow you to breeze through the puzzle :)

Translation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsYJyVEUaC4

Offline Cez

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #46 on: November 09, 2011, 12:04:36 AM »
thanks for sharing your iPod playlist :)


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Offline MikPal

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #47 on: November 09, 2011, 01:38:14 AM »
Translation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsYJyVEUaC4

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #48 on: November 09, 2011, 03:33:26 AM »
I also didn't like the fact that Valanice seems to be completely lost.  I attributed her suicide attempt to being under a spell, but this episode seems to confirm that she's going through a tough time and at a loss on how to handle it.  Frankly she comes across as weaker than she's been portrayed in past games.  

Ok, I'll come out and blatantly say what happened during that Episode 2 section.

Spoiler (mouse over to reveal):

Which bears the question...
Spoiler (mouse over to reveal):
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 04:54:26 AM by Cez »


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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #49 on: November 09, 2011, 04:11:02 AM »

I also don't really like the fact that everything is moving backwards.  At the risk of being that nerd who actually analyzes these things, it just doesn't make sense.  Events are moving backwards, yet other things are moving forward.  The curse obviously doesn't get undone, and clearly everyone is still aware that Alex and Rosella were cursed, even as they're becoming unaware of other things (Shamir unlearns spells and the chess pieces replay their game, unaware it already happened, though Graham knows.)  The banner is suddenly hanging again while the tree still blocks the way to the beach.  Like I said, I stop short of being that nerd who analyzes it and gets indignant about such things (I save that level of geekdom for Star Trek) but these inconsistencies kind of scratch at the back of my head.  Was it really necessary to have time revert?  Why not just have things being undone completely and disappear, since that achieves the same result story-wise (though people when then accuse you of ripping off Neverending Story.)  And actually, for that matter, what is the Black Cloaks' endgame?  Completely undoing the world in which they live?  Doesn't that hurt them just as much as everyone else?  The story says that they're ambitious and corrupt, but ambitious people don't want to undo the world, they just want to rule it.  Like I said, these are picky points, but they are points that kind of stick in the back of my head because they just don't quite fit together.


I'll be honest about this one. This is a result of shortening a much more elaborated plot that was simplified and had to do with Astratos, the city of time, and the Mask of Eternity, when they existed in the game. The Silver Cloaks originally came from this Astratos, and controlled Time, not dreams, and the Box used to be one of their artifacts.

Spoiler (mouse over to reveal):
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 04:54:50 AM by Cez »


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Offline snabbott

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #50 on: November 09, 2011, 08:41:08 AM »
There have been a lot of cases where testers and other team members have made design suggestions that were not implemented because:
1) It was too late / too technically difficult
2) There were higher priority items that needed to be addressed (e.g. crashing, which has been greatly reduced, though not eliminated)
or
3) They didn't fit with the developers' overall vision for the game.

That's the way it works. Testers give feedback, but it's the designers and developers (and ultimately management) who make the decisions on what gets fixed/changed and what doesn't.

It wasn't entirely feasible in this case, but as a professional software tester, I've seen that it is best if QA can be involved in the design phase so that things can be changed while there is still time and before anybody gets too attached to a particular idea. It also helps QA to see the bigger picture. It's hard to make good design suggestions when you don't know the whole story. Again, though, it's not QA that make the ultimate decisions.

Hopefully it will work more like this with the commercial games. It has already been moving in that direction throughout the development of the TSL episodes. We were given the plots for Ep4 and Ep5 up front, so we know what's coming. :)  That requires a lot of trust, though, and the developers have been given reasons in the past to not trust people. :(
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 08:45:28 AM by snabbott »
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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #51 on: November 09, 2011, 09:22:55 AM »
I also didn't like the fact that Valanice seems to be completely lost.  I attributed her suicide attempt to being under a spell, but this episode seems to confirm that she's going through a tough time and at a loss on how to handle it.  Frankly she comes across as weaker than she's been portrayed in past games. 

Ok, I'll come out and blatantly say what happened during that Episode 2 section.

Spoiler (mouse over to reveal):

Which bears the question...
Spoiler (mouse over to reveal):

Wow you all are sneaky! I did not make that connection until you just mentioned it.
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Offline AzzyGale

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #52 on: November 09, 2011, 10:06:56 AM »
I thought as much re Valanice. I really feel it that way.  She's certsinly not any wekaer for it, if anything...this could be a jorieny of gaining more strength. Vslsnice has gained depth thanks to  the writers; I had less love for her in the past than I do now.

I''ve still to see the post-credit scene but as I journey and try to make various connections....I really love this theme of reversal, to be honest. And the funny thing is you don;t get it from the start because I just noticed than in ep 1 everything (thew foutains is still the same. The reversal really crept on me, to be honest. But I like it because it adds psychologial baggage also to the beast- no fairy tale end, the problem continues...and this is something that can kill a weak individual, really going from beast to human and beast again. the wors part  is- he remebers...unless he will nt remeber in a few days.

 Pandora story adds justification to it, but I'm really more interested in Graham;s silver cloak connections (I don;t know how I came to think of this, I don;t remeber previous parts so well at themoment) and Valanice past before the past happened.

All these caracters are simply tragic. They are not weaker for it because they are dealing with and facing tragedy- and that can only make people stronger. It's running away that can kill.  So I really must disgree with criticisms on portraying Valanice this way.

What aboiut Graham? How long can he be oiut of the loop. He should have the realisation, at least, of how badly he has been toyed with. And his life has been essentially schemed from te start. I love this the most, really because it makes Graam so unbelievably alone and small and insignificant and yet..if e can ave tis knowledge and still make tise same decisions...or would he waver? -now that would make him brave beying being a bold adventurer.

And just wy can't e make connections? He had visits from a hooded stranger in te past...he should be suspicious and he seems clueless to me... To me it seems like it graham who never really learns...


Please accept my apologies for typos but I'm just dead tired and I don;t even feel like editing this



« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 10:25:41 AM by AzzyGale »

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #53 on: November 09, 2011, 10:27:31 AM »
That's something we were going for with the reversal stuff (especially after we changed the reason for it, as Cez explained): a slow creep of these things happening as the Episodes progressed. And then Graham's worried in this episode about the Box being opened, but the thing is that it's too late already--the Box was opened before he even knew it was a possibility.

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #54 on: November 09, 2011, 11:47:18 AM »
Graham is only visited by "hooded strangers" in AGDI's fangames, which suffer from much of the same contrived overarching plot connections that TSL does.

The problem with these over-arching connections and "tragic" characters as that they have absolutely no connection at all to the King's Quest series we all grew up with.  Not to mention being wretchedly cliche, but that's another story.  ;)

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #55 on: November 09, 2011, 12:03:11 PM »
The problem with these over-arching connections and "tragic" characters as that they have absolutely no connection at all to the King's Quest series we all grew up with.
There wasn't a whole lot of character development in the original games (especially the earlier games), and I know that's how some people prefer it. I wouldn't say that the characters in TSL are inconsistent with the ones in the original series. It's just that they are developed in the direction that a particular group of people (i.e. Cez & Co.) envision. I think it would be impossible to develop the characters in any direction without upsetting some people. It is what it is. Either you like it or you don't. :-\ Personally, I'm a fan of character development in general - it's a big part of what makes stories interesting to me.
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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #56 on: November 09, 2011, 12:06:57 PM »
precisely that! there was very little development of characters therefore, therefore, for instance, Valanice was only superficially strong. Don't get me wrong, I loved those games but...really, what This company made them into is really far deeper, the others just scratched the surface and the characters were a bit more cardboard.  

As for AGDI- yes, I guess it was there after all and in the Infamous Adventure Remake as well I reckon, something was changed.  I should revisit the original series sometime soon since it all is getting mixed up now... I didn;t think they were contrived, though. And even so..Graham still never seems to learn anything.  But even so...Snabott got it exactly right, I absolutely agree.

Giving characters some personality to speak of- rather than leaving them cardboard- is a big part of what makes Silver Lining so engrossing and so heart-wrenching.

Also, I am a fan of looking at links between all these fan made games because they all add something unique to original story, but Silver Lining shines among these fan efforts and shines above all original games. I'm not a fan girl. mind you, but I find myself appreciating poetic license with these things. I find little fault with the intention of writers here because I very much subscribe to their vision of these characters and their vision of what they are going through.

Also, what is wrong with being tragic? As long they can bring about a catharsis. And right now I am feeling a lot of sympathy for these characters, which is what this tragism should achieve.  But the most important thing?  I FEEL someting. Like in a goob book or in a good movie, the emotive impact is of vital importance. Tat emotive impact was missing in original games. they were nice little fantasy adventures and there were  some of the hints there of this deeper story which is expanded in a CERTAIN way. A way, not THE way. A. A way. and better explored in Silver Lining. But they weren't or couldn't be made in the same way as we can make them now: in a way which brings these depths out. The characters lacked posychology to a very large extent, which they gaibn here and I can relate to their situation.

Too bad it as going to end just like that, with a foretaste of an adventire of epic proportions which explores the depths of family binds and of twisted agents of fate.  It;s a great theme- that of being manipulated into this tragic situation, and it leaves graham, the MacGyver-Indiana Jones type adventurer but also a naive person.
And this theme of being maniopulated...of being in aisiutation out of control is just so ionic for graham and such an excellent opportunity to finally grow as a person, not just as a father or husband or king.

Yes, they have been tested by losses...but it was never really explored in the games from all perspectives! Therefore each installment of the game seemed like just another adventure, even though we knew the connection..I didn't feel anything whatsoever, though I tried to imagine the reactions of certain situations other characters may have. The original games were wonderful fairy tales; Silver Lining takes in a darker and more realistic stance and it gives such a power to these characters! The only thing I lament is that it;s all we;re getting... But I know it can;t be helped :)

I would have liked to get that Silver lining for our characters drowning in depsair and darkness. And Gosh, dont get me started on the music.

There are however a few "uhmm..no". most notably some of the backgrounds do not render orpperly- for instance the cklouds near castle entrance..I see white patches instead of the sky and clouds....THAT puts me off.

But. This is a product of fantastically written fanfiction, Silver Lining IS fanfiction,  so I see no reason not to let imagination roam after we get that closure. .  

As for puzzles, the horse sequence in episode 3 was enjoyable and the sense of frustration was adequate for that sense of danger and the need to be fast (without spamming--I confess I tried to spam the moves and crashed a lot -.-) But the fact that I spoammed means that I felt the urgency of the moment. And that;s what it was.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2011, 12:39:35 PM by AzzyGale »

Offline KatieHal

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #57 on: November 09, 2011, 12:08:41 PM »
Ah, there's the cranky Lamb we know and tolerate. I was beginning to wonder if something had happened to you!  :o

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Offline snabbott

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #58 on: November 09, 2011, 12:11:54 PM »
XD

Also, there would be a lot more room for complaint if this were an official sequel and not a free fan-made game. :P
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Offline Aurelind

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Re: Episode 4: Feedback and Thoughts
« Reply #59 on: November 09, 2011, 12:33:17 PM »
Okay, first the positive feedback.  The spell-ingredient-hunting part of this episode was great.  The puzzles were engaging and appropriately challenging, the new areas were beautifully designed (I especially love the Artists’ Boulevard), the music was lovely and enhanced the mood well, and overall I had a great time playing it.

Right up until I gave the ingredients to the Archdruid, that is.  Then it became a descent into frustration and madness.

The box puzzle and the boat fight took everything I disliked about the tower sequence from episode 3 and amplified it.  Apparently, having introduced us to the joys of Unexpected Gameplay Change and Press X To Not Die last time, the game designers felt like they needed to add Interface Screw and a pinch of Luck Based Mission to give us the full experience.  Aeisa, Oberonqa, and Damar already covered most of the points I would have made concerning these sequences, so I see no point in merely echoing them.  I will add, though, that I feel like once I beat a King’s Quest game, I should not be left wondering if I can do it again.  For the last arcade sequence, I was able to learn what I needed to do, because the same things happened in the same order every time, and many of the actions were prompted.  Here, that strategy simply does not work.  Random elements are one thing (like the path through the marshes in the KQII remake), but once you know the trick to a puzzle, you should be able to apply it to reiterations without further puzzlement.  With the box puzzle, even after I learn what the component parts look like, I still have to chase them around the screen and attempt to distinguish them from among the many nearly-identical curves and lines before they fade.  (And if that was the “easy” mode, I don’t want to know what “normal” is.  Maybe they would be better named “small twitchy headache” and “migraine.”)  With the boat fight, I had to get help to learn
Spoiler (mouse over to reveal):
tells and how I should respond to each, and even then, if I had to dodge a bolt it was a 50/50 shot whether I would choose the right direction.  I’m grateful that there are autosaves built in, and that the former puzzle gives me unlimited attempts, but still… this sort of gaming is not what I enjoy, and not what I expect in a King’s Quest game.  I think that King’s Quest puzzles should be more like riddles or lateral thinking exercises or and less like virtual sparring matches.

To be honest, if this were a commercial game, after this I would wait for the reviews of part 5 before purchase… and if they indicated more of these action/twitch sequences, I probably would not buy it.  My desire to know how it all ends could be satisfied by watching a Let’s Play instead.

In fairness, the cutscenes interspersed throughout these sequences were awesome (although I want to slap people for failure to communicate in such dire circumstances), and the end one was gratifyingly trippy (though abruptly ended).  Overall I would still give this episode a good review, and I continue to appreciate and be impressed by everyone's hard work, but please, please, don’t try to up the action quotient again in part 5.  Let the story make us feel tension, not the gameplay.